Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is on the rise and obesity is the biggest contributing factor to the condition. The latest research findings suggest that genetics may also play a role in a person’s risk of developing fatty liver disease.
The latest study looked at over 1,000 patients with NAFLD. The researchers found three genetic variations that were linked to fatty liver disease. These variations are FNDC5 rs3480, PNPLA3 1148M, and TM6SF2 E167K.
Lead author Dr. Mayada Metwally explained, “Hepatic steatosis is one of the major risk factors for NAFLD, so if we can understand its causes, we can work towards preventing it. We’ve previously thought that genes such as FNDC5, which help make a protein called irisin, play a role in depositing fat in the liver, but this is the first time we’ve demonstrated the link and identified the mechanisms. Our findings show that these genetic variants contribute to liver fat in people with NAFLD. The more variants a person has, the more likely they are to accumulate fat in the liver.”
NAFLD untreated can result in further health complications including heart and kidney problems.
“The growing number of people with NAFLD is alarming, particularly since many patients don’t develop symptoms until the condition is advanced. Understanding the genetic causes of NAFLD is crucial. We can now look towards targeting these genetic variations as a potential treatment to slow the progression of disease,” added Dr. Metwally.
The researchers noted that there are particular microRNA that are induced among NAFLD patients. MicroRNAs stop “messengers” from transmitting information to produce a protein from a gene. They found that these “bad” microRNAs bind to and suppress FNDC5 production.
Having a better understanding of how NAFLD works raises the potential for new treatment methods to be developed in the future. In the meantime, it’s important you reduce the risk factors which you can control, the biggest being your weight and fat.
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